The Western Museum of Mining and Industry recently launched two exhibits to celebrate the history of mining in the Pikes Peak region and across the nation.
“Mining Heritage in Colorado Springs” and the interactive exhibit “Mining in America” are now on view at the 225 Northgate Blvd. museum, which also features a collection of old-world mining machinery and techniques.
The hands-on “Mining in America” exhibit allows patrons to select a spot on the map of America to hear and see what types of mining take place there. In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, docents assist patrons with the displays for now.
Part of the celebration of Colorado Springs’ 150th anniversary, the “Mining Heritage of Colorado Springs” exhibit — available through August — features story boards that tell the tale of mining and ore processing in and around Colorado Springs, which grew slowly until gold was discovered in 1891 just south of Pikes Peak. This exhibit includes cases of rocks collected throughout Colorado show the various gold seams mined during the period.
“As the city grew, so too did the desire for Cripple Creek millionaires to create needed improvements in their adopted city,” said Curator Dr. Richard Sauers.
Winfield Scott Stratton built many of the buildings still standing today in Colorado Springs, he noted. “The post office, the county courthouse, and the Mining Exchange — Stratton paid for all that.”
Stratton also developed the Independence Mine and Mill in Cripple Creek, and eventually sold it for $11 million.
Broadmoor founder Spencer Penrose initially invested $150 in a gold mine owned by Charles L. Tutt Sr., but soon found it more lucrative to invest in ore processing.
“Penrose made his original fortune with the C.O.D. mine,” said Sauers.
Once the gold was mined, it could be processed close to home. After Penrose and Tutt sold the mine, they built two ore-processing mills in Old Colorado City.
What’s now Gold Hill Mesa held the Golden Cycle Mill that stripped gold from rock using cyanide, Sauers explained. “The stuff came down the railroad down Ute Pass … they loaded the ore up in the mines in Cripple Creek,” he said.
It wasn’t just gold and silver the miners were after. Coal mines dotted the region, too.
El Paso County yielded 16 million tons of the carbon-based product. The largest underground coal mine was the Pikeview Mine located where present-day Rockrimmon and Delmonico boulevards intersect. Coal was dug out of underground rooms with coal pillars holding up the ground above. As coal was removed from the rooms, the pillars were the last to go.
Sauers said, “Decades later, houses built atop the old underground mines sometimes showed signs of sagging as the underground rooms began to collapse.”
All sorts of fascinating stories of the mining that once populated the region can be explored at the museum. It is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Gold panning is included in the price of admission. Admission for adults is $11; children ages 13 and up, $8; and children ages 4-12, $6.
The museum will host Family Day on April 10, complete with hayrides, gold panning and blacksmith demonstrations in the blacksmithing shop. For tickets, go to tinyurl.com/22yp9bm8.
And on April 13 the Speakers’ Bureau Lecture Series will feature Conrad North, presenting “Ready, Set, GLOW!” the museum’s new Fluorescent Minerals Exhibit, expected to open this month. Call 719-488-0880 to make a reservation. Cost for guests is $5. Museum members are free.